A not so silent film.

by Jan on February 3, 2012

There is more in us than we know. If we can be made to see it, perhaps for the rest of our lives we will be unwilling to settle for less.
Dr. Kurt Hahn, Outward Bound Schools Founder

It was on a recent Sunday afternoon that I arrived early to see the new silent black and white Oscar nominated film THE ARTIST.  It was there that I encountered the reminder of a big lesson.

I hesitated in picking a seat in the almost empty theatre because two women took the center seats that I wanted. Then unexpectedly they moved over and made the seat available for me—with a space between us.  I had waited and gotten the seat I wanted, and I was pleased.

As the theatre began to fill, people asked if the seat between us was taken. The women always replied that the seat was broken. Always the people moved on and looked for another seat.  As the time arrived for the film to begin, every seat in the theatre was taken except for the one next to me.  The show had been oversold.

In walked a man who again asked if the seat was occupied. The women once again said the seat was broken.  But he did something different.  He said in his loudest voice—“Broken? Who says it’s broken?”

He then asked the people in our aisle if we minded him climbing over us to the seat—just to see if was really broken.  He arrived and with great ceremony sat down. He tested it out, and we all waited for what he would do next.

“THIS SEAT IS NOT BROKEN! THIS IS THE BEST SEAT IN THE HOUSE,” he shouted with glee to everyone in the theatre.  He began to question the women about why they thought it was broken, and their weak reply was that someone told them that it was, which, I, as an observer knew was not true.

The movie began and ended. I asked him if he liked the film.  His answer was that he hated it.  There was only “one line” in this silent film that he liked.

About fed up with him at this point, I was about to turn away when he said, “By the way, this was a great lesson for me, you know.”

Ah, I thought, now there might be a redeeming quality to the man. So I asked him what the lesson was. And this is what he told me:

Just that morning he had been given advice by a friend to look for a signal, an opening of any kind, and to look at it in a new way–to see what he might create from that “space.” His friend told him to never take no for an answer, and to never give up on himself. This newly jobless man took the advice to heart.

When he saw that the seat next to me was open, he decided to test his friend’s advice. And he did what had never done before.  He demanded proof, and found that indeed he could find the “best seat in the house.”

This man had looked at an opportunity and said to himself “why not, and why not now.” About twenty people accepted the fact of a broken seat.  One man did not.

Granted, finding a seat in a crowed theatre is not what we might call magical or vital in our lives, but what is magical and vital is seeing something with new attention and a new attitude.  Seeing what others think as impossible is really only an opportunity to do the impossible and prove that it is all how we look at things that makes a difference.

And our anonymous man in the theatre had a new choice—not to settle for less than the “right” seat—or the right life.

“And that is the lesson I need to be reminded of on a regular basis.

~Peter Nivio Zarlanga, author and businessman